The economists at George Mason University take people to lunch and then ask them "What's your most absurd belief?"
What a great question! I think my most absurd economics-related belief is that we'd have just as much technology and entertainment if we got rid of patents and limited copyright to 20 years after publication...
Socialism, as a philosophy, appeals to me. Why couldn't we all just do our best, share with each other, and all be one big happy family?
Unfortunately, Socialism, as an economic or political system, just doesn't work.
But I've got this little nagging voice in my head that says that maybe the digital economy is different. The marginal cost of reproducing a song or software program or digital textbook is, approximately, zero. The laptop computer I'm writing this on contains my entire music collection; it would take me ten days, nine hours and forty-five minutes to listen to it all.
And I just realized that I'm sharing it with everybody else here at Cushman Market. Why not share? It would be extra work for me to remember to turn off sharing every time I disconnected my laptop from my home network; that's a waste of my time. It's more economical for me to be a digital socialist.
Before we know it, our laptops and iPods will be able to store every song and book ever published. We could make all of that information and entertainment available to everybody in the world; wouldn't that make the world a much better place?
But that's absurd. If artists can't sell their songs, or authors can't sell their books, then artists and authors will stop creating new stuff!
I dunno. I have no idea how, but I think it would actually all work out OK if we got rid of almost all of our current intellectual property protections. Maybe we'd have fewer artists and authors, but maybe that would turn out to be just fine. Maybe if people spent less time working to earn money to buy music and books they'd create more music and books themselves.
Uh-huh. And maybe we could get together to form sustainable local organizations of like-minded people and form an ideal society that's in complete harmony with nature.